This Was Not Some Movie That I Could Just Stop Watching

As a college student, I live in a bubble. It is easy to forget the outside world while in school. I can choose not to look at news web sites and not watch television because I have the excuse that I am busy with class work. My perspective of Scripps and of the world changed on September 11.

I am a resident advisor on campus. On the night of September 10, I was on duty. Among my responsibilities are letting people into their rooms when they are locked out and breaking up boisterous parties. I was asleep the next morning when there was a pounding on my door. I thought, “Great, someone locked herself out.” My suitemate burst into my room and told me that someone had bombed the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers. I was not quite awake yet, so all I could sputter was “What?” I went into her room and we watched the news. The footage of the Twin Towers with smoke billowing from them is seared into my mind forever. I can only imagine what the people there must have felt, because 3,000 miles away, I was very emotional. I have friends living in both D.C. and New York City, and my uncle often works at the Pentagon. I also had a friend who was supposed to fly to LAX that morning from the East Coast. I have family in Pittsburgh, so when there were unconfirmed reports of a plane down in Pennsylvania, I began to cry. That is when I realized that this was not some movie that I could stop watching. This was real. I could not understand why, and I wondered where it would end.

I knew that some of the flights had been heading to LAX. I was concerned that L.A. was the next target. It seemed so logical to me, even though nothing in the world was logical at that point. I was frightened when flights were diverted to Ontario Airport from LAX. Ontario is only 15 minutes away, while LAX is close to an hour. I dressed quickly because I was afraid that something would happen while I was changing, and I didn’t want to die like that. It was a defining moment for me. I realized that I was actually lucky to feel this way for the first time when I was 21 years old because young people in other countries have felt this way many times. I talked to my dad to make sure that my family was safe, and he said that the likelihood of anyone attacking Scripps was slim to none.

I headed off to my first class, “Introduction to International Relations,” which was supposed to have a special simulation in Balch Auditorium. As I walked, my eyes watched the sky for planes I flinched when I saw a bird. I was carrying the RA duty pager, not sure what I would be expected to do if anything happened on campus.

In the auditorium, Professor Andrews was visibly upset. President Bekavac was there. A television was set up for all students to watch the news. It all seemed so unreal. Class was cancelled, and President Bekavac tried to comfort us. A friend and I were gripping onto each other, and President Bekavac came over and spoke to us. It was reassuring to know that we were not alone in our fear, we were still a community.

As I headed back to my dorm, I didn’t realize that that I had been walking until I got back to my room. I felt the need to check on the residents in my hall. I was unsure of my emotions and didn’t know what to say, so I just walked from room to room, watched television with people, and tried to be there if they had anything to say. I knew that I didn’t have the words to make everything OK or to make others understand why this happened. I am still trying to figure it out for myself.

That night, as I prepared for bed, I finally got hold of my mom. It was so comforting to talk to her. I was afraid to let her off the phone. I made sure to say I love you like I do every time I get on the phone with her, but at that moment it meant a little bit more because I knew that so many other people could not say that to their loved ones.

Usually I tend not to lock my door, but that night I locked and rechecked the lock before I went to sleep. I could only wonder how tomorrow could happen after a day like this, but it did. September 12 came, and I was still in a daze, but just knowing that the days continue offered me solace. My concept of Scripps as isolated has been altered, and this might be for the best. I accept that I can no longer ignore the world because maybe I can do something to help it.